Transparency International Statement at Plenary Session of 7th UNCAC COSP

Vienna, 8 November 2017

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

My name is Delia Ferreira Rubio and I am the Chair of Transparency International.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of Transparency International.

I want to emphasise two important points in this brief intervention:

  1. the need for a safe space for civil society to fight corruption and
  2. the need for this Conference to recognise grand corruption as a specific crime that requires specific laws and procedures.

On Civil society space

Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption contains a clear description of how civil society should be involved in the fight against corruption.

When we speak of civil society we include NGOs, journalists and academics. Civil society has many key roles to play: it can detect corruption and mobilize against it. Civil society can ensure cases are prosecuted and it can propose reforms.

Consider the many striking examples of that critical role. Recently in France with the conviction of the son of a Head of State for money laundering. Consider the important work of the International Consortiun of Investigative Journalists, who helped to uncovered the use of shell and off shore companies for money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.

But all too often, however, if we take actions like these we end up in jail, our organisations are closed or worse still, we are murdered. And this takes place in some of the countries that are parties to UNCAC.

We want justice to prevail in the far too many cases of journalists and activists murdered each year when they expose corruption and human rights violations.

In too many places around the world the space for civil society is shrinking. This makes it hard and sometimes impossible for us to work in the fight against corruption.

The role of the media is crucial in detecting corruption and in raising public awareness of system weaknesses. Therefore, Transparency International is teaming up more and more with journalists to expose the system reforms needed at national and global levels.

Civil Society’s participation in the fight against corruption shall not be considered just as a decorative element in meetings. The role of civil society is crucial. To deal effectively with corruption, this conference should actively seek the engagement of activists, journalists and academics in discussions and reviews. The Conference should stop the efforts so side-line, silence or censor our work.

On Grand Corruption, I have a few important messages:

Some of the worst constraints on civil society are imposed in countries where grand corruption is systematic. Grand corruption takes different forms in different contexts. In extreme systems, the whole of government may turn into a criminal organisation with the sole purpose of the personal enrichment of its leaders. In these cases, rule of law is replaced by concentration of power and capture of the State.

We strongly believe that grand corruption is an obstacle to sustainable development and hurts the most vulnerable. We have presented to you a series of recommendations that we believe will strengthen the fight against grand corruption.

Transparency International believes this Conference should give priority to grand corruption because of the harm it causes, because of its cross-border nature, because it is hard to investigate and everyday more widespread.

We urge States parties:

  • To enhance enforcement of laws against bribery of foreign public officials,
  • To introduce public registries of the real owners of companies and trusts so the corrupt cannot hide their illicit assets –
  • To discuss and agree on principles for accountable asset return.

Let me stress: UNCAC is a landmark convention but it is nothing if States ignore their commitments.

This conference has the power and the duty to make a difference. It can take these steps to show there is a strong will to stop corruption no matter how powerful, how rich or how well-connected the perpetrators are.

We all want the same thing: a world free of corruption.

Only by working together can we get there.

Thank you for allowing me this time.

Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International